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Exploration of Antarctica

Aerial Exploration of Antarctica

Despite these numerous land and sea expeditions, by 1920 explorers had surveyed only 5 percent of Antarctica. Advances in aviation and aerial photography rapidly increased the rate of exploration, and by 1940 most of the coast and several inland areas had been sighted and named. Australian aviator Sir George Hubert Wilkins made the first Antarctic flight in 1928, traveling 1,000 km (600 mi) from Deception Island along the Antarctic Peninsula.

In 1929 American aviator Richard Evelyn Byrd flew from the Bay of Whales on the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and back, taking aerial photographs of many square kilometers of Antarctica’s interior. Byrd returned to the same area to conduct more aerial photographic surveys between 1933 and 1935. Scientific sledging parties gathered scientific data and astronomical fixes that supplemented Byrd’s aerial photography. Byrd’s expeditions established that mountains and high plateau lay in every direction behind the Ross Ice Shelf and that Antarctica was beyond doubt a single continent.

Between 1929 and 1931 the British, Australian, and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) used floatplanes to explore and photograph many kilometers of East Antarctica’s coast. Between 1929 and 1934 Norwegian whaler Lars Christensen equipped his expeditions with seaplanes, which flew over and photographed the remote island of Bouvetoya and stretches of the Antarctic coast from Enderby Land to Coats Land. In 1936 American explorer Lincoln Ellsworth crossed Antarctica by air, flying from Dundee Island at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula to the Bay of Whales. In 1938 a German expedition flew over and photographed an extensive area of East Antarctica now known as Queen Maud Land (Dronning Maud Land).

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